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Friday, January 22, 2010

In search of fishable water

Yet another week (the fifth) has gone by without me wetting a line. Mainly because it's been all go, to be honest. Running around on work related errands on Monday and Tuesday, a high powered (not!) business meeting on Wednesday, rods to send out and more to build on Thursday with a late trip to my local tackle shop to pass an hour or two - during which I purchased some rig bits for tench fishing. If you can't fish you might as well buy tackle!

That left today for an afternoon's jaunt which hasn't exactly inspired me to get the tackle ready. The first water I saw was my local river, where it's tidal - but a good couple of hours before high water. It was up to the flood bank, looking like liquid mud and churning merrily. Lovely.

Thence to the Land that Time Forgot. A duckpond I passed was ice free, but a flooded patch of land was still iced over. Sure enough the lake was in it's own micro-climate. The valley was filled with a thick mist, the water's surface was invisible from the road as I drove past. I'd stretch my legs and go check it out. There were gulls to be heard mewing from the direction of the water as I walked through the copse of tall, bare beech trees. It turned out they were standing on the half (or more) of the lake that was still frozen. There was a piker starting to pack up who hadn't had a sniff. Cross that one off the list of options.

I took a circuitous route home, not entirely by design... Some roadside waters I passed by were clear, others not. All the rivers and streams were belting through and looking like sludge. At least the local canal, which was still frozen when I looked at it yesterday, appeared clear where I crossed it if nowhere else. Sod it.

Wherever, and whenever, I do get out again I have a new fishing buddy. I ordered some batteries yesterday and they arrived bright and early this morning with an unexpected free gift. A 'Magnetic Duracell Bunny'. I hope the little pink bugger is lucky because he's not very magnetic!

Don't look at me like that!

For those who missed the brazen plug on my site I'll repeat here that Derek Macdonald can be seen using a P-3 or two on the Sky Sports website. I'm going back into hibernation.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

No time like the right time

That's the PAC Convention out of the way for another year. Getting up at four thirty and driving 126 miles reinforced my dislike of early starts. The only good thing is watching the world appear from darkness - and the relatively quiet motorway system on a Saturday morning. As usual it was a good day to meet people you only see once a year. Being on your feet all day after getting up at daft o'clock takes it out of you, so Sunday was a lazy day of tidying my stock away then having an early tea and heading for the river.

'Interesting' Nev Fickling looks interested...

With the warm dry spell continuing I was expecting to find a few cars in the car park and their occupants fishing where I fancied. Like a lot of anglers they were fishing to office hours and getting ready to pack up when I reached them. All too often these nine-to-fivers tell me I'm arriving at the right time as they put their gear away and head home. Especially when the river is showing its bones. If they know this why are they going home? Ah well, they had baited a couple of swims up for me. As they'd been there all day and caught a few I elected to cast out baits with no PVA bags attached.

The remaining two anglers, fishing the beach, were starting to pack up and I was thinking of moving there as they hadn't caught any barbel but had been putting bait in regularly. Cue the upstream rod hooping over! Two 8mm crab pellets had been picked up by a smallish barbel. Stop where I was for a bit longer.

It was still light when I heard a sound like a herd of heffalumps moving through the wood opposite. Then I heard the cackling of badgers arguing. They really aren't the most stealthy of creatures. I tried to get a glimpse of them but most of the leaves are still clinging to the branches. Just as soon as they had started their racket it stopped.

After twenty minutes more I could feel the beach calling me again. The downstream rod arced and the baitrunner spun. A slightly bigger fish, and a well proportioned one too. I stuck it half an hour longer then went to get grit in my tackle. A chub attacked the boilie almost immediately, without getting hooked, but it was nearly an hour before the upstream rod lurched round on it's rest. The fish was on, then it went solid. I kept the pressure up and it moved, the line grating on something before it came free. A similar sized barbel to the previous one. I checked the line and hooklink for damage before recasting.

For some reason I couldn't settle here, so decided to move again at ten. On winding in the upstream rod it snagged. A good steady pull felt as if the rig was in weed, which seemed unlikely given the depth. Things moved but grudgingly. I found out why when my rig left the water with another hook attached - and some nylon. I freed the hook and commenced to wind the lost line around my hand. There were yards and yards of it. At least as much as it would take to cast across the river. I'm sure that was what the fish had taken me through.

Better out than in

People who have never used braid say it's a menace as it doesn't rot when left in snags, yards of the stuff trailing downstream making the snag worse. My experience is that it doesn't get left in snags as it breaks at, or very near, the hooklink. Yet when I pull rigs out of the river they have nylon attached that hasn't gone at the knot. How you can leave so much line in the river is beyond my comprehension. Although having watched one snagged up angler cut the line at his rod end I'm not too surprised.

My next move was to a swim I hadn't fished before. In the dark it was difficult to get my bearings, not least because the feature I wanted to cast to was now invisible... Whether I fished the right swim or not I'll know next time I visit in daylight!

It was comfy peg to fish from and sheltered from the breeze that had died down after dark. The only disturbance being from the drying balsam pods showering me with their seeds. Clouds parted and reformed. Stars were peeping and hiding. Yet again it was a warm night with only the fleece required. A grand night to have been bivvied up somewhere. While the dry spell is forecast to continue there are frosts predicted for later in the week. After an hour I was getting drowsy. My eyes were shut when I heard a baitrunner and looked up to see the downstream rod bent over. It felt like a barbel for a few seconds before metamorphosing into a chub. Chub always seem to fill out later than barbel and this skinny four pounder was no exception.

The rods were set high as it was a long cast over shallow rocks

Midnight came, the house lights in the valley were going out. I set off back to the car wondering why someone who was never fit in their youth and whose knees and hips are wearing out would be clambering about wild river banks in the middle of the night. Driving along the narrow, high-hedged, lane from the farm I came across one of the reasons. Minding its own business was a roe deer buck that slowly turned and trotted ahead of me. Ten yards further up the road I noticed movement lower to the track. At first I thought it was a rabbit but when I focused properly it was the rear end of a badger leading the deer to the lane. Badgers always look to me like they've forgotten to put their arms in the sleeves of their coats, their fur seeming to be draped over them. At the junction brock turned right and found his way under a fence, the deer turned left and began to panic trying to get through a thick hedge. I stopped the car to let it take its time. At the third attempt it found a spot where it could push its way through. Normal people, and nine-to-five anglers, don't have experiences like that.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Modern times

After doing some work in the morning I couldn't make my mind up what to do next. Having wasted too much time in deliberation I decided to go barbel fishing (just once more!) and chance a long walk to Buzzard Bend. I'd been listening Farming Today in the morning and the terrible issue of noise pollution in the countryside. People, who claimed to be country folk, were complaining about shooting, bird scarers, church bells and big tractors. It made me wonder what they expect from the world. These sounds are all part of the ambience of the countryside for me. Just like blanking makes catching more pleasureable they make the silence that follows them all the more intense.

Walking upstream the first field that had been lush grass and clover last week, was shorn and yellow. The second was still being worked, the rural idyll hideously shattered by two enormous tractors collecting silage making the most of the continuing Indian Summer. There should be a law against it...

The bend is deep, snaggy, and an easy cast. I leaded around then spodded out some two pints of pellets and the contents of a tin of hemp. Fear not, I hadn't bought the tinned seed. It had been acquired in exchange for some leads and pellets. With the appetisers laid I cast out the main course. A 15mm boilie on one rod and a 10mm boilie on the other, both with their attendant bags of pellets. The ritual bag filling then commenced.

Since seeing the Korum PVA mesh sold in watertight pots I have been keeping mine in a screw top container. The one shown below will hold 20m of mesh, and being clear I can see how much I have left. I leave half an inch of the mesh hanging out when I put the lid on so I can find the end easily.

PVA container

It was quarter to five by the time the baits were out, the sun still shining warm and bright. A kingfisher was having success on the far bank. There are plenty of small fish in the margins at the moment. The silage was gathered in and a natural 'silence' descended once more on the valley. A buzzard mewed, a blackbird chattered its alarm call and flew across the river to disappear into the thick canopy of the wooded bank opposite. The leaves are now showing definite signs of autumn. The air was still, I watched a leaf detach from a branch and flutter slowly to the water's surface and drift equally slowly downstream. Fish were rising noisily.

A lazy, hazy day

The river was low and clear, with it's usually light peaty stain. I was expecting kick-off time to be around eight. I wound the baits in and went for a wander up river. There was a tempting looking run with far bank snags. Not tempting enough for me to move after putting the bait in on the bend. Back in my chosen swim I dropped my rig in the margin to see how obtrusive the braided hooklink was - and took an underwater photo. The hook looks more obvious than the braid to me.

What the fishes see

The baits were recast, but I swapped the big bait rig over to clear nylon. An experiment to see if it would bring me a bite in daylight when the 'highly visible' braid might not. I sat down and swigged from my bottle of pop. Hearing a rustling in the balsam I turned round to be greeted by a fellow angler who enquired how this swim fished as he hadn't tried it. I replied that I hadn't got a clue. "This is the first time I've..." ZZZZzzzzzzz. The small boilie had been swapped for an 8mm crab pellet and a barbel had approved of the change.

Barbel fight differently in deeper water than they do in the shallows. In the shallows they use their power to cover distance at speed, in deeper water they use it to bulldog. This one was bulldogging like a good un. With the river being clear it had glistening brassy flanks. It also looked like it had swum into a big rock as a small fry. A chunky fish even so.

Son of parrot

So much for the braid putting the barbel off. Half an hour later the big boilie was taken. One all to the two rigs in daylight. There was some light cloud overhead, the evening was staying warm. A couple of days earlier I was wrapped up in fleece long before dark. This time I was in my t-shirt until eight.

Sunset in the valley

By the time the next bite came, again to the pellet, I was fleeced-up but by no means cold. The fingerless mittens were still in the rucksack and dew wasn't forming heavily. This third fish gave an unusual bite. A short zuzz on the baitrunner followed by a tapping rod tip. The initial impression when I leaned into it was of a chub. Until it started to take line. At a couple of ounces over nine pounds it was the best, and last, barbel of the session.

As the evening wore on it felt more and more like nothing else would happen. It didn't. I have a hunch that if I had put more bait in from the off, or topped it up as the session progressed, I might have caught a few more. There's no way to prove it though. I packed up at half past eleven and began the fifteen minute trudge back to the car. As I was loading the gear in the car I saw a bright green cricket on the window of the rear door. Prehistoric looking, and larger than I had imagined crickets to be.

I have two choices of route home. The short one through town and suburbs, the long one along motorway and through the flatlands. I opted for the motorway. This was a bad move with a capital 'B'. Before I had reached the end of the slip road I ground to a halt in what was obviously a lengthy tailback. It's less than two miles to the next junction. It took me an hour to get there and turn off - the tailback went on for as far as I could see. The cause was 'workforce in carriageway', four lanes being reduced to one.

Every light in town was on red, reminding me why I take the motorway. At one set I noticed movement at the bottom left of the windscreen. The cricket. It must have crawled along the side of the car. As my journey home continued the cricket carried on creeping. By the time it was in front of me I'd got quite fond of it and didn't want to drive too fast in case it got swept away by the airflow. I entered a 50 zone and it turned head on to become more streamlined. As I hit the dual carriage way I saw it brace its legs. If it had knuckles I'm sure they would have been white. Turning in to the village it started to crawl on to a windscreen wiper. By the time I parked up it had descended the other side. I thought it had an air of relief about it!

The fastest cricket in the west

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Sitting by a river throwing in pellets*

Although England managed to bat for longer than I thought they would the collapse still arrived before I'd finished whipping all my rods. Nonetheless, despite the day turning cloudy and threatening rain, I stuffed an early tea down my neck, left the brolly at home and headed for the river.

First stop was to look at a new-to-me length and have a walk. Even with the overcast I worked up quite a sweat. Then headed off to visit my feathery friends. It wasn't long after I'd set out my stall that they arrived, milling around in the edge waiting for the pellets they knew were coming. They were the only companions I had as the river was deserted. It looked as if the stretch had seen a bit of stick over the weekend though, with trampled grass in a few places.

With the baits out I sat back to relax with a brew. I was idly watching the rod tips when I heard rustling and a quiet 'peeping' sound in the grass to my right. The feathery horde wasn't satisfied and wanted more. There are two missing from the brood since I first made their acquaintance but the remainder are almost fully grown now. Even so, mum still keeps a watchful eye out for them.


Beware - ducks!

It took me by surprise when the downstream rod sprang into life. It only felt like a small fish but was proving difficult to get under control. When I saw the boilie hanging from a pectoral I knew why - it was foulhooked. With the river low and, more importantly, clear it was vividly coloured. Bright coral fins and deeply brassy scales. A fish for the future.

Dusk still lingers with hatches of flies coming off the river, but the long shadows come earlier. Summer is showing signs of drawing to a close now. Swallows were flying high, far above the wood on the far bank, leaves now turned dark shades of green with hints of autumnal browns in places.

I had pulled the upstream rod out of a snag, fraying the hooklink, and was tying up a second spare one after recasting when that rod was away. A decent fish by the feel of it. A well filled out none pounder as it turned out. Fifteen minutes later the same rod jagged down a few times and I lifted into a fish that felt equally good. Then it fell off. I'm still not convinced by the S5 hooks in smaller sizes for barbel fishing.

Half an hour went by when a sharp take to the downstream rod stopped suddenly, then the tip jabbed again. I expected an eel, so a small chub was a pleasant surprise. A fresh bait was attached to the hair and recast. Barely had I sat down again and the same rod was in action again. No chub this one. Immediately I picked up the rod and bent into the fish it took line. Always a good sign.

Sure enough, it was a cracker. Another solid and chunky fish. The bigger fish have lost their early season flabbiness and with the clear water are looking good.

Throw pellets out, wind barbel in...

When I was returning the fish I noticed that it had a slightly deformed barbel. I'll have to check back through my photos to see if it's a fish I've caught before. [Yes I have and at the same weight. Which is odd as it's on the web at over a pound heavier... Must buy some new scales!]

A closer look

There were some strange noises coming from the far bank woods after dark. The first was a rather loud bark. Just one. Then later there were sounds of things crashing through the undergrowth. This didn't sound like deer, which can sometimes crack a twig or two. Maybe badgers, they can be less than subtle at times. One thing I doubt was causing the noise was the big black cat that I have heard is prowling the valley. It's strange how talk of big cats sometimes spooks you. Last time out I packed up early because I couldn't get the animal out of my mind and kept looking over my shoulder! This time it didn't bother me. Even though I'd had an unexpected feline encounter as I approached the river.

Coming down the bank I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of something stalking in the long grass by the river. It's long tail twitching in anticipation. How amazing that I had only heard of the 'panther' a few days before and there I was, face to tail with..

...a small white kitten that bounded off in fear as soon as it became aware of me!

I was too lazy to fill any more pva bags of pellets, so when the last one was used up I started to tidy the gear away at eleven thirty. Five minutes into this process the upstream rod was off again! Just a small one, but nice to finish the session off. Why low and clear conditions put people off I really don't know. Barbel can be caught, and in daylight too. Okay, the biggest fish of the session came after dark, but I'd had a couple before the headtorch was required. Still, I'm not grumbling.

* With apologies to John Gierach

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Better than a blank - just!

The rivers would be carrying extra water, the barbel would be feeding, but I quite fancied sitting behind three matched rods on a stillwater. So the sunny morning was spent in deliberation. Time was when I'd have done what I thought I ought to, but eventually I chose to do what I wanted to do. Three rods were put in the quiver along with the plumbing rod. It was a late decision. I had Test Match Special on the wireless as I made some sandwiches. Two Aussie wickets down with the first two balls of the day. Should I stay home and listen? Nah. I can just about get long wave reception with my fishing radio on the dashboard.

The journey was slow. Not stop-start, but slow. The cricket made it bearable as more wickets tumbled. I arrived at the lake later than planned, even with the late start. Although there was a strong south-westerly blowing I chose to fish with the wind off my back. There was one other angler fishing the same bank - the only other angler on the lake, and he'd caught a decent bream in the morning. I felt like I was in with a chance.

I mixed up some groundbait and fired out a dozen and a half balls to the marker float which was over 12 feet of water with a fairly clean bottom. Then two method feeders were cast out temporarily while I rigged the third rod with a simple running leger and shot hooklink, and baited the rig with two 9mm Tutti Fruti bolie pellets. The method feeders were then swapped to cage feeders on simple helicopter rigs. The clouds started to gather but it remained bright.

Ever since I spent a year on a 'massage the dole figures' scheme working three days a week on a nature reserve I have disliked them. They are totalitarian. The argument that anglers disturb wildlife and damage the flora is a nonsense. The path was alive with butterflies as I walked to my swim. Small brown ones, small blue ones, larger white and speckled ones, all feeding on the masses of flowers.

Butterfly heaven

The baits had been out nearly an hour. Time for a recast then put the kettle on. I was screwing the gas bottle to the stove when I was disturbed by the sound of an alarm. The middle bobbin was up at the top, the line bowstring taut and the alarm still sounding. I lifted into the fish and felt not the thump of a bream, but the pull of something else. My first thought was that I'd hooked a carp, but it didn't feel too heavy, maybe a tench - of which there are supposed to be a few in the pit. It kept pulling to my right and kited in. Now this could be a problem as the water was a good two feet higher than normal. Sure enough the fish ended up in the marginal reeds that should have been stood in inches of water.

I'd almost put my wellies on, but there I was paddling out in my boots. I soon went over the top of the left one. I backed out and walked down the bank to see if a change of direction would free the fish. It didn't. What I could see of the fish wasn't much, just a vaguely dark back and some ripples on the surface. It looked like a decent tench. I put the rod down, removed my boots and socks then tried to roll up my trouser legs that were already damp around the ankles. Rod in one hand landing net in the other I soon realised that wellies wouldn't have been much use anyway. With the water up to my knees (and my trousers soaked to the same depth) the fish rolled on its side. It was a carp. I'd got soaked for a small carp!

Small carp & wet trousers

I left the fish in the margin while I took my trousers off and hung them on the back of my chair, covering my pale legs with my bib and brace. I put my boots back on my bare feet - Gortex lined boots don't feel clammy against skin when damp so I was quite comfortable. It would have been a different story in winter, though.

Luckily it was a good drying wind. Two hours later the trousers were dry enough to put back on. The clouds had coalesced to one grey sky. Bad light stopped play at Edgbaston. Then the rain arrived. Intermittent spots at first, falling lightly now the wind had dropped to a mere zephyr. Then getting heavier, but not heavy, and steady. I sheltered under the Aqua Rover.

What I wanted to do, not what I thought I ought to be doing

With the cloud cover, and the shortening days, dusk came around nine. I hoped to see the dark backs of bream rolling, but none showed themselves. Although it wasn't cold my feet were turning chilly. I packed up early, in the dark and rain, at half past nine. It could have been a better session, but it had been eventful in its way!

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Feathered friends

A few weeks ago I watched a pair of coots feeding their scruffy looking brood. I eventually counted there to be six chicks. At that time they were spending most of their time hidden under the trailing branches overhanging the margins. Occasionally one or two would venture out to greet mum or dad to get a beakful of food. Even at that size the adults would admonish a chick by harrying it and appearing to peck at it. As the day wore on they became braver, and sometimes five would come out into the open water. There always seemed to be one that hung back. I didn't expect all the chicks to survive.

Now they are considerably bigger and braver, and there are still six of them, and they still get told off by their parents. And there is still one that spends a lot of time on its own - which is why there are just five youngsters in the photo below. They must be half grown now. Still taking food from their parents in a noisy rush each time one pops to the surface, they follow them round the lake but have learned to dive and are discovering what boilies are!

Family life

Although the coots were entertaining, it was a pair of great crested grebes that provided me with the more interesting sight. Grebes eat fish, so it took me a while to realise that a pair which were some way off making upward stabbing motions, stretching their necks sharply in all directions, weren't doing it for exercise. They were taking advantage of an evening hatch of insects. Opportunistic feeding.

I also had a close encounter with a mallard. A particularly forward female that flew into my swim and mopped up every spilled hemp seed it could find while it's mate stood guard at the water's edge. This made me happy because it left next to nothing for the rats to feast on after dark and they pretty much left me alone.

Fishingwise it was pretty much like last time. I fished the same spots, with the same rigs and caught a few more tench to keep my hand in. The females I caught, however, were nowhere near as fat as the two I had last time out. Solid, but not podded up. I should have come home before the rain set in, the temperature dropped and the tench stopped showing themselves on the surface. I've caught tench in the rain, but it's been warm rain. One day I'll learn something and it will stick.

The in-line feeder scores again

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chub by design - and by accident

Fired up by my new-found ability to catch chub I was back on the river on Monday fishing a new swim. I'd also packed my float rod as I fancied trotting a maggot with the water so clear. This proved to be a frustrating move. I'd loaded the old 501 with fresh line and couldn't make a decent cast with even a four BB Loafer. Like a fool I'd put the whole of a hundred yard spool on the reel. By the time I'd realised the solution the light was starting to go. I fancied a move. The gear was packed away and I headed to my usual spot to find the two favoured pegs occupied. The first two casts with the feeder rod saw crushed maggots from a spot mid way between the two 'hot' pegs.

Because the river had been warming on Sunday and was getting warmer still I had put two barbel rods in the quiver. I was falling between two stools really and not fishing either the tip or barbel rod well. On darkness the angler fishing upstream left for home so I dropped in his peg and concentrated on the tip rod. It took a while for bites to materialise, but they did eventually. The idea I had for improving my feeder rig worked to a degree, but needs modification. I caught three chub, two small ones and one about three pounds before I called it a night at half past eight. I had to be up early to go and steward a pike match - of all things.

I set the alarm on my phone for 6.00 and my bedside alarm clock for the same time. The phone went off first and after shutting it up I checked the clock which read five. I was confused. Then I realised I hadn't changed the time on the phone when the clocks altered! Back to sleep. I awoke again, before the alarm and looked at the time. Five past five. The blooming clock must have stopped or something. Digging my watch out it read five to seven. Damn. Then I put my glasses on and had another look. Five past five. I'd had the watch the wrong way round. When the alarm finally did go off it was at six o'clock...

The match was to be fished with deadbaits and lures only. I didn't expect much to be caught so my plan was to sit by my car sorting out my chub tackle; removing line from the 501, tying up PVA bags of pellets, making another adaptation to my feeder rig and so on. Within seconds of the 'all in' there was a shout for a pike to be weighed. Off I set with the scales and Steve, my co-steward, with the clipboard. Before we'd logged the first tiny pike another two shouts had gone up! This set the scene for the day. We hardly got any rest having to dash round the lake, about fifteen acres and a good fifteen minutes walk to do the full circuit, at all too frequent intervals.

I did get to sort the tackle out eventually, but every operation was interrupted by a call to weigh a fish. In the end we logged sixteen or seventeen pike - my weigh sling had more pike in it in one day than it had in the last four years!

I'm no fan of pike matches, but this one (which I have helped steward in the past) is well run. The fish are retained in the angler's landing net until a steward arrives when it is weighed and returned. Most of the participants know what they are doing and those who are less experienced are willing to take advice. It's also a match run as much as a social event with teams travelling from around the country - the same old faces every year by all accounts - and they are there as much for the get-together in the bar the nights before and after the match. There's not a lot at stake financially so runs aren't left to ensure the pike are hooked.

A monster is returned to the lake

Once the 'all out' was called I was in my car and off to the river, arriving just after dark. There was one angler on the bottom peg and as I knew who it was from the van in the car park I went for a chat with him before setting up. He'd had a few barbel and said I could drop in his swim as he was due for packing up. He landed a barbel as I was talking to him, a fish of six or seven pounds - his best of the session.

With his rod out of the water I stated arranging my gear in the swim while he packed his away. Then I cast the first rod out with an 8mm crab Pellet-O. Before Eric had sorted all his gear out or I had got my second bait in the water a chub of three or four pounds had hooked itself! Once I was alone I put the thermometer in and noted the river was even warmer than Monday.

Action wasn't hectic but in a little under three hours I landed another chub of a similar size to the first one, an eel and three barbel - the biggest just on eight pounds, the smallest of maybe two pounds trying to drag the rod in as I was packing up completely tired out and ready for my bed. All that walking round the lake was more exercise than I'm used to these days.

When I got home I found an interesting slug on the garage wall.

Interesting if you like slugs

A batch of rod blanks has just been delivered. I'll not be fishing for a few days now. Probably just as well as I need the rest.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Egrets. I've seen a few.

What an appalling blog title. Please don't blame me. They were making awful egret puns on Today on Radio Four the other week! However, I have seen a few white egrets over the last few years when I have been fishing the Trent, in both the upper and lower reaches. Until last night I had never seen one locally (in the North West), but just before dark one flew in to roost in the trees of the steep bank on the far side of the Ribble. I was spending three evenings a week on the Ribble a couple of years back and never saw an egret then. I tried to get a picture of the bird, but by the time I had sorted the camera to get a fast enough shutter speed it had gone deeper into the wood.

An egret yesterday

This was my first session back on the Ribble for almost two years, and it brought back to me what is great, and awful, about the river. The good points are the wildlife and the location. It is a nice place to be once you get higher up the valley. The bad points are that most of the swims involve a fair old hike, and when you get to them the banks are bloody awful. If it's not pebbly, it's sandy (the grit gets into everything), and all too often the bank slopes in such a way that getting a chair level is nigh on impossible. Flat grassy banks are something of a rarity. At least where there are fish to be caught. But that is all part and parcel of the topography of a spate river.

Spate rivers also go up and down like nobody's business. It takes very little rain on the fells for the river to start rising. It can rise rapidly too, a foot an hour is not uncommon, but it can drop just as quickly. Getting the timing spot on can make a big difference to success.

Last night the river looked in good form and was carrying some colour. The day had been sunny and it was a pleasant evening to be out. I didn't get set up until nine though,but had chub knocks immediately. Nothing major, but there were fish around. I wasn't happy with my swim choice, so after an hour I moved. The same thing happened, and with a few minutes of casting out a couple of Tuff1s, with a PVA stocking bag of dampened Hemp and Hali Crush on the hook, I got a typically fast chub bite. As is usual on the Ribble it didn't hook itself. Some days they do, but mostly they don't. This went on for every cast until the mist arrived.

The clear, starry, sky was ominous and sure enough mist was soon rising across the fields, over the water and along the valley. When it's like this the chances of barbel are reduced in my experience. I sat it out until quarter to one, but the loss of the second lead of the session made my mind up. I tramped back to the car glad that I had put my waterproof overtrousers on as the dew was thick on the vegetation.

The session got my barbel head firmly screwed back on, and I'd like to say that it was good to be back on the Ribble, but I'm not sure it was. The valley is a great place, and the river is somewhere to fish for a short session with the chance of a good fish, but my mind kept drifting to other rivers - with shorter walks and more comfortable swims!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What a din!

Hidden away in the undergrowth is a noisy little sedge warbler. I've known them keep that racket up all night.



Saturday, October 27, 2007

Someone was catching

The river seemed lower than ever, and the water temp was down again. Hopes weren't high, but so long as there's a bait in the water there's a chance. One good thing was that the after-dark air temp stayed up and it was a pleasant evening. But I'm running ahead.

As I was settling in to the swim a kingfisher was active on the far bank. Perching in the willows and diving for fish with more success than I was to have.

With the low, clear water I opted to fish a small hookbait on one rod. In this case a piece of plastic maize. The bags of pellets were kept small, about walnut size, on both rods. Leaves weren't a problem, but there were clumps of weed coming down with the flow which made it difficult to hold a bait on the far side for long. Nonetheless, shortly after a recast the far bank rod top started tapping in the manner symptomatic of a chub that isn't going anywhere. I picked the rod up and struck, connecting with a fish of some sort, and a large lump of weed on the line. This lot then kited across to my side of the river. I could see the weed on the surface and what looked like a gaping chub mouth under the surface a few feet behind the weed. When everything got directly downstream of me the fish woke up. Turned. Slapped its tail on the surface and was gone.

I fished into darkness in that swim, then moved to another spot around seven thirty, where I remained biteless until midnight. The only thing of interest (if you can call it that) was a cow on the other side of the river staring at me for almost an hour. No, it wasn't interesting. But it was strangely unnerving.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

More fishers than anglers

Another exploratory trip to the Trent yesterday. Had a look at a couple of stretches, but didn't find a swim I really, really fancied - although I have lined some up for when the river is in flood. Saw two other anglers, but there were plenty of others out fishing.

Walking along one shallow length I spooked a pair of egrets from a sandbank, later seeing a kingfsher and a mink in a wooded stretch, herons were everywhere. Then at dusk, after I had settled into a swim that was deepish close in, I noticed something moving along the far bank margins. From the sound being made I thought it was a couple of duck I'd seen earlier, but when I got the binoculars trained on it I saw an otter. The first one I have seen in England. I managed to grab a quick snap, but the shutter delay meant the animal had moved by the time the photo was taken, and the low light made for a lot of camera shake. You can just about tell what it is in the 'Sasquatch' type photo!

I started getting chub knocks as the light faded, all on the downstream rod fishing shallower water near a willow, but nothing positive. Then after dark I saw a shooting star - always a good omen. It was then I got a chub rattle that didn't stop, and a small fish was being wound in. Then it fell off!

You can't win them all.

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